Can CrossFit aid in addiction recovery? An exploratory media analysis of popular press

Date20 April 2020
Published date20 April 2020
AuthorShelby C. Lautner,Megan S. Patterson,Melitza Ramirez,Katie Heinrich
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Mental health,Social inclusion
Can CrossFit aid in addiction recovery?
An exploratory media analysis of popular
Shelby C. Lautner, Megan S. Patterson, Melitza Ramirez and Katie Heinrich
Purpose CrossFit has been popularized for the high intensity workouts it provides and the sense of
community it facilitates;however, its potential as an adjunctive treatment for addiction is unknown,as is
has not been publishedin traditional peer-reviewed literature. Therefore,the purpose of this study was to
determinethe potential for CrossFit to benefit individualsin addiction recovery.
Design/methodology/approach A search was conducted using the search terms ‘‘CrossFit,’’
‘‘addiction’’ and ‘‘addiction recovery.’’ A tool was created to categorize key information within articles
such as type(s) of addiction described, mention of support/community, main narrative type (personal
story, information abouta treatment centers, etc.), mental health described as a comorbidity, and if the
exerciseprogram(s) was(were) used to prevent,sustain or support recovery.
Findings Nearly half of the articles reviewed(48 per cent) described personal stories related to using
CrossFit as a means to overcome addiction, and 26 per cent were about CrossFit gyms targeting
addiction recovery.A key finding was that 62 per cent of all articlesmentioned the community and social
componentof CrossFit as an important mechanism of therecovery process. Finally, 33 per cent of articles
recognized mental health as a comorbidity to addiction and therefore also proposed CrossFit as a
suitableway to improve mental health.
Research limitations/implications Although this was a review of gray literature, the findings reveal
how CrossFitmay be an innovative approach forsupporting addiction recovery.
Practical implications The potential benefitsidentified in the articles demonstrate the positive impact
that CrossFit may have on recovering addicts. Empirical research is needed to objectively study the
impactof key aspects that CrossFit can provide to individualsovercoming addiction.
Originality/value This study provides an example of how anecdotal evidence of addiction recovery
can be used for analysis, thus providinga strategy to be implemented in addiction treatment facilities.
CrossFit has been widely popularized by the fitness community, but the social support and exercise it
providesmay be a leverage point for supporting individualsin recovery.
Keywords Social support, Physical activity, Community, Substance misuse, Addiction
Paper type Research paper
Approximately 19.7 million peopleaged 12 or older have a substance use disorder (SUD) in
the United States (Substance Abuse andMental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),
2018). SUDs occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically
significant impairment, including health problems, disability and failure to meet major
responsibilities at work, school or home (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration [SAMHSA], 2018). Addiction is defined as a treatable, chronic disease
characterized by the use of substances that become compulsive and continue regardless
of harmful consequences (American Society of Addiction Medicine [ASAM], 2019).
Substance use and addiction cost the American society more than $740 billion annually in
Shelby C. Lautner is based
at the Texas A&M
University System, College
Station, Texas, USA.
Megan S. Patterson is
based at the Department of
Health and Kinesiology,
Texas A&M University,
College Station, Texas,
USA. Melitza Ramirez and
Katie Heinrich are both
based at the Kansas State
University, Manhattan,
Kansas, USA.
DOI 10.1108/MHSI-02-2020-0007 VOL. 24 NO. 2 2020, pp. 97-104, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2042-8308 jMENTAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL INCLUSION jPAGE 97

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